THE CASE FOR CLASSICS
For most of us, our relationship with classic literature started young. In our English class rooms we were introduced to Orwell and Salinger, Austen and Shakespeare, and whether their books delighted us or left us unmoved, we still view the literary canon as something innately pedagogical. The idea that the classics are there to teach rather than to entertain is ingrained, and perhaps this is why many of us are unlikely to return to the literary greats once we have outgrown the classroom. In the midst of a pandemic, Bookoccino’s Pascale Kahn presents the case for doing just that.
For those of us working or studying from home, adjusting to the change has proven to be its own battle. If there is a silver lining, it is that we have also been given the gift of time. It appears that, as a nation, we are using this reclaimed time to revive the singular joy of reading. Why not pick up that classic you’ve been meaning to read – or reread – for years?
It is impossible for an intelligent man to become anything, only fools become something Fyodor Dostoyevsky
If you are anything like me and have avoided this Russian giant because you were a little intimidated by the bulk of Crime and Punishment, it might be time to try his slimmer Notes from the Underground. While a darkly humorous take on humanity’s down-and-out, this acerbic and surprising little novel is a delight to read. With all the idiosyncratic flair for which he is celebrated, Dostoevsky has written a bite-sized classic to eat up in an afternoon.
Classic doesn’t have to mean antiquated
These texts may be set in days gone by, but their subject matter remains as relevant as ever. Who can say that themes of love, power, sex, and death don’t endure? The classics live precisely because they capture something essential about what it means to be human.
This parable of greed and the corruptibility of human goodness is the perfect example of a timeless classic. When Kino discovers the Pearl of the World, he knows it is his ticket out of poverty. What begins as serendipity soon takes a turn for the sinister, however, bringing out the worst in those around Kino, and in himself most of all. however, bringing out the worst in those around Kino, and in himself most of all.
There is so much to discover
The literary greats aren’t limited to a handful of writers; they range from the revered to the virtually forgotten. Bronte and Hemingway brush shoulders with writers like John Williams (who, you ask?) and it is precisely this interplay of the seminal and the marginal that makes diving into the classics so exciting.
Suggestion: John Williams’ Stoner
The New Yorker has called it “the greatest American novel you’ve never heard of” which just about sums up this overlooked wonder of a book. Stoner follows the life of an ordinary man from youth to old age, navigating the joys and hardships of human existence. Here is a novel with the heart and scope to rival any of your favourite classics.
PLUS We will throw in a freebie!.
When you purchase 2 orange Penguin Classics we’ll throw in a third for free. Shop instore, or buy two online and we’ll choose the third.
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